There have been a surprising number of comments about my use of J.Crew suits in this week’s Suit Up! posts. So I thought that I should explain why I am such a J.Crew devotee.
Durability. In 2005, I purchased my first J.Crew suit. It was a black, Super 120s wool suit with a one button jacket. It was gorgeous. The cuffed trousers were perfection. The pencil skirt was a multi-tasking dream. And from that moment on, J.Crew’s 120 line was my brand of choice.
The black suit jacket has worn incredibly well over the years. There is some damage to the liner, but the outside is pristine. And given that I wear the suit at least once a week (I’m wearing it now), this is no small feat.
As for the other pieces, the skirt was replaced after four years of weekly or twice weekly wear. The trousers, sadly, were destroyed by my clumsiness when I stepped my left heel into the right cuff and ripped them to ribbons. I still search for them on eBay in the hopes that I will find a replacement pair.
Perhaps, I should write J.Crew and request that they reissue them as they are the only pair of pants that I have ever loved.
Price. Yes, a $230 blazer and a $130 pair of pants can be a tough swing for a young Hill Staffer. But as far as quality suiting goes, paying $360 for something that you will wear 60 or so times per year for five years makes good financial sense.
If you are a young staffer and can’t afford these prices, you have three options:
1) Wait for a sale. J.Crew often has great sales (30% off sale items, 20% off everything, etc.) where you can pick up the suit for much less. And given the anemic state of the retail market, these sales have become a monthly occurrence.
2) Charge it. When I started on the Hill, I signed up for a J.Crew credit card. I bought three suits and two pairs of shoes, and then I paid off the card over time. It helped me establish credit, and now, three years later, I am still wearing those suits.
3) The Gift Rule. Conversely, my former intern built her professional wardrobe on the backs of gift cards. She requested that her relatives and friends give her nothing but Visa gift cards for Christmas, birthday and graduation gifts. Within a year, she had a very enviable professional wardrobe.
Obviously, you could also save up for a suit, which is what most people do. Because while you could just buy a cheaper suit, having a suit that will last and look good doing it is a much better investment.
Style. Sadly, there are not a lot of great mid-price suiting options. Banana Republic sells suits, but I find them to be of questionable quality. Brooks Brothers sells suits, but the cuts are boxy and antiquated. Ann Taylor’s suiting has vastly improved in quality, but it requires a bit of tailoring which is an added expense.
I like the J.Crew suits because they fit well right off the hanger. The suits have modern cuts that are less boxy than their compatriots, and the styles are often changed to reflect fashion trends.
J.Crew also does women a solid by consistently offering the same colors and fabrics in new styles. This way you can have the same suit in a one button jacket, a two button jacket, or whichever style they are currently featuring. You can also add pants, vests, and skirts at will.
The fabrics have a good feel and drape to them. And as anyone who buys suits regularly can attest, fit can be fixed but fabric is forever. There is nothing I hate more than crunchy, acrylic suit fabric. Blech. A nice soft cotton, wool or blend is a suiting must.
I understand that many of you can’t swing these suits for regular wear, right now. But remember, building a professional wardrobe does not happen overnight. I have been accumulating suit for five years now. You can start with one and build from there, just as I did.
Don’t let your desire for instant gratification stand in the way of a lasting professional wardrobe.
If you need cheaper alternatives, I encourage you to try eBay, consignment shops and outlet stores. Because while the $90 Arthur Levine suit from Filene’s may look like a great buy now, it won’t last. Instead, save that money in your sock drawer and tough it out until the J.Crew sale gets going in earnest.
You’ll be glad that you did.